Archive for June, 2011

Line of Sight, Employee Engagement, and Daily Kaizen

Lean culture is largely defined by, or at least manifested in, engaged and empowered employees practicing voluntary kaizen. Engagement can be measured in a number of ways, but perhaps one of the most telling is the number of implemented suggestions per employee per year.

A while back, I developed an outline of Autoliv Brigham’s daily kaizen journey (see figure below) based upon information within the book, How to Do Kaizen. Autoliv’s story is extremely compelling.

Often engagement evolves as employee line of sight evolves. Line of sight is my euphemism for the scope of the employee’s ability AND desire to see, to understand, and to care beyond the self. Successful organizations are clearly much more than a loose confederation of individuals.

Start Somewhere

Lean transformations have to start somewhere. Many times it starts with an average employee line of sight that extends about as far as “self.” If that’s the case, then the lean leaders need to engage right there.

What does that mean?

Well, if the employee cares little beyond the self, then train and involve them in creature comfort kaizen for themselves (as finder and fixers of the problems). Recognize their improvements and their creativity and share it with others. The four-fold goal of kaizen is easier, better, faster, and cheaper…in that order. Start with easier and build from there.

This develops the employee’s kaizen capability and, if done effectively, their appetite and eyes for kaizen. But don’t stop there. Expand the context for kaizen. Extend the line of sight beyond just the self.

Expand the Line of Sight

Most employees work within some sort of natural work team – folks who typically work together on a daily basis towards some common purpose. (Admittedly, sometimes the team in which they are a member is less than “natural” and formed for management convenience and economics, not the flow of value. Not optimal, but often it’s still manageable.) There are a number of things that the lean leader can do to facilitate greater engagement, including:

  1. Deploy a daily accountability process. Effective lean management systems include the use of tiered meetings to review team performance versus targets, plan for the next 24 hours, and identify issues, barriers and countermeasures. It drives shared understanding of process performance, foments dialogue, and “pulls” suggestions.
  2. Provide more lean and team effectiveness training and time to use it. The more actionable knowledge about lean and how to better perform as a team, the better. While a lot of daily kaizen can happen in the margins (breaks, before shift and after shift), collaborative efforts are most likely to happen if some time is provided on a periodic basis during working hours.
  3. Leverage performance management. It’s a game-changer when the criteria on how people are evaluated and compensated includes team and company outputs as well as desired lean behaviors.
  4. Involve employees in organized kaizen. Kaizen events and facilitated kaizen circle activities will further develop the organization’s problem-solving muscle and expand awareness and ownership.
  5. Leaders transition to teachers and facilitators. Perhaps the toughest transformational challenge is flipping the organizational pyramid “upside down” so that the leaders become enablers, not bottlenecks.
  6. Apply lean tools and systems that drive employee involvement. For example: 5S is an supremely intuitive and engaging tool…and it can provide near instant gratification. Visual controls, among other things, share information with virtually every stakeholder. Talk about line of sight! TPM, specifically autonomous maintenance, by its very nature requires direct involvement and ownership.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

What do you do to expand the line of sight and engagement within your organization? How does that drive daily kaizen?

Related posts: Book Review: How to Do Kaizen, Lean Management Systems and Mysterious Performance Metrics, Easier, Better, Faster, Cheaper…in that Order

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Grapes, Lean and Wisdom from Mr. Miyagi

Lean transformations are not for the squeamish. Certainly not for the noncommittal. Yes, the unknown is scary…

We often talk about lean principles, systems and tools, but clearly that’s not the whole story. So, here’s another part of the story – without profound, unwavering and unambiguous leadership commitment (by the leaders that matter) ANY serious lean transformation effort is DOOMED.

If leaders can’t muster the courage to plunge forth (not talking recklessness), they will bastardize lean principles, fail to apply the requisite resources and time, delay and defer hard decisions, tolerate and often enable non-lean behaviors, etc.

In short, they’ll try to live with one foot in the present and one foot in the lean wannabe state. A sure recipe for disaster.

Noncommittal is not “transformative” and not inspiring. If the leaders aren’t committed, why would the rest of the organization go all in? And for those underlings who do go all in, they’re likely to suffer feelings of confusion, despair and betrayal. Not good.

I will leave you with some Mr. Miyagi wisdom from 1984 movie, Karate Kid.

Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel: Yeah, I guess so.
Miyagi: [sighs] Daniel-san, must talk.
[they both kneel]
Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later
[makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”
[makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: just like grape. Understand?
Daniel: Yeah, I understand.
Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel: Yeah, I’m ready.

Source: The Internet Movie Database

Related posts: Lean Leader Principle – Show Them Your Back, The Intrinsic Discipline of the Lean Leader

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Lean Leaders – Don’t Be So Judgmental

The term, “judgmental,” in my experience is consistent with Merriam-Webster’s second definition, “characterized by a tendency to judge harshly.” Some synonyms include: carping, faultfinding, hypercritical, overcritical and rejective. Sounds like a party, right? Not, really.

For good reason, judgmental should NOT be a regular lean adjective. Why? At least two reasons.

Reason #1 – People. It’s counter to the foundational lean principles of respect for every individual and leading with humility. When’s the last time you witnessed someone being judgmental towards an inanimate object? Rarely. It’s typically something that is directed to or at a person or persons. In a lean environment, the intent is to develop and engage folks, not shut them down. When we employ the five who’s instead of the five why’s, we risk driving the organization into a mode of problem-hiding, not problem-exposing and solving. Judgmental behavior drives fear and cynicism and freezes the flow of ideas, the very lifeblood of kaizen.

Reason #2 – Process. It violates, or at least distracts the practitioner from the principles of focusing on process and embracing scientific thinking. When the bluster of “judgmentalism” can trump or distort going to the gemba, conducting direct observation and relying on data (or, more appropriately as Taiichi Ohno insisted, first-hand “facts”), we become worse than blind. This kind of blindness harms an organization’s PDCA effectiveness. That’s one reason why time observation forms, spaghetti charts, standard work combination sheets, operator balance charts, process maps, value stream maps, etc. are focused on facts.

I’ll leave you with some reflection questions. Admittedly, some are very specific. The purpose is to get you to think.

  • When you observe 9 pieces of work-in-process (WIP) within a line and standard WIP has yet to be established, do we ask, “Why is there so much WIP here?” or do we ask, “How come there are 9 pieces of WIP?”
  • When we observe a process in which an operator does a fair amount of walking, do we tell the team leader, “Man, operator B walks way too much,” or do we say, “I observed operator B during process X, he walked about 300 feet during that process. What can we do about that?”
  • When you conduct a time observation of a worker for a certain process and then you share your findings with the team, do you say, “She was painfully slow when doing these 2 steps,” or, while referencing the time observation form, do you explain the variation in cycle times, speak in quantifiable terms, note the factual points observed and let it be about the process?
  • When you listen in on a handful of customer service phone calls and there are consistent errors and omissions relative to standard work, do you dismiss the lot as a bunch of incompetent folks who obviously need some re-education or do you characterize (number, type, conditions, etc) the errors and omissions and share the anonymous (no need to name names) and non-judgmental observations with the team and engage in some PDCA?
  • When you visit another operation, whether one within your own company, supplier or benchmarking target, do you key in on the shortcomings and have a good laugh or do you observe the elements (large or small) from which you can learn and improve – noting (literally) the rigor of and adherence to standard work, the simple elegance of the heijunka box, the line stop escalation protocol, etc.?
  • Has anyone ever been judgmental to you regarding your area(s) of responsibility? How did it make you feel? Defensive? Engaged? Enraged? Did the exchange help identify specific actionable opportunities? Or, was it a fuzzy, dark cloud of, “you need to suck less”?
  • Can you think of how you can improve your approach in the future? Perhaps, be a bit less judgmental? I know I can.

Related posts: Want a Kaizen Culture? Take Your Vitamin C!, Book Review: How to Do Kaizen, Time Observations – without Rigor, It’s Just Industrial Tourism

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